The Ugandan School System

You will find that a large numbers of E3 Africa students are much older than their U.S. counterparts.  To understand why this takes place, it is important to understand that the Ugandan government generally pays for the education of kids up through the equivalent of our 6th grade.  


Government run schools range from Primary 1 (P-1) to Primary 7 (P-7), and secondary schools ranging from Secondary 1 (S-1) to Secondary 6 (S-6).  Students take their major exams at the P-7, S-4 and S-6 levels.  If a student’s score is not high enough, they are not allowed to continue in school.  In this case, a student would then consider vocational training (if they can afford it) or dropping out altogether. 


Ugandan School Level Equivalents


Since 1998, the Ugandan government has stated that they will allow three children from each family to attend primary school while paying only minimal tuition. These schools, in which classrooms can have more than 100 children to one teacher, are called UPE (Universal Primary Education) schools. This “rule’ does not necessarily apply across the board and students who should be eligible for a “free education” are not. In these cases, a student must pay whatever fees the school charges. 

There are generally two levels of schools in Uganda – Higher Standard and Lower Standard.

  • It is nearly impossible to enter a Ugandan university without having gone to a Higher Standard school.
  • Higher Standard schools generally teach in English, often have a religious affiliation and are non-discriminatory toward girls.
  • Higher Standard schools have a much higher percentage of their students successfully passing Leaving Exams than those of a Lower Standard school.
  • Higher Standard schools generally pay their teachers a decent wage and may provide housing. Lower Standard schools often have a reliability problem with teachers not showing up for class and taking on second jobs.
  • Higher Standard schools generally have smaller classroom sizes as compared to Lower Standard schools and generally have much better building facilities.

There are generally three types of schools in Uganda – government schools, private day schools and private boarding schools.

  • Government schools tend to run in the Lower Standard school arena.
  • Private day and boarding schools will generally be in the Higher Standard arena.
  • Boarding schools offer the following critical assets for a rural student to successfully complete their education:
    • They are Higher Standard schools.
    • Students have a safe place to sleep, unlike at government or day schools.
    • Students do not have to walk two hours or more to school in the morning, which is very often the case when attending other types of schools.
    • Students have 24/7 supervision and scheduled study time unlike most would have if they lived in their rural villages.
    • Students receive adequate daily meals and a school uniform which is often not available to them otherwise.
    • Sponsored students don’t have to work to provide for their tuition and can dedicate more time to studies.

(Please note: The term “private school” may conjure up visions of an exclusive preparatory school to U.S. readers, but be assured that “private” here simply means not government run.)


Why are there schools fees?

The student must pay for a uniform (required), shoes, a sports uniform, school supplies, exam fees, and other “minor” items. Each school requires that a student bring their own mattress. Secondary boarding school fees typically range from $650-$850 U.S. per year.  This is usually not affordable with a rural family earning an average of less than $2 a day; it is rare that they can support the secondary education of one child/teen let alone 4-5 children. It is easy to see how this can be unattainable for a youth from a poor clan or village. 


What happens if school fees are not paid?

If school fees are not paid, the student cannot enter school until they are paid off. This is a fairly frequent event seeing how the majority of students are coming from very poor families. They miss some school, pay the fees and go back, fall behind on fees again, miss more school, pay the fees...it is a vicious cycle that takes a toll on the child which eventually leads to a slow decline toward the bottom of the class and ultimately, they will have to drop out of school. Jobs are incredibly hard to find so it would be unusual if a child could actually find a job to earn his/her own school fees. Most students are extremely poor and many are orphaned with no means of support.  Without assistance, the likelihood of their ever obtaining an education is almost non-existent. There are children and teens sitting at home right now hoping that somehow their school fees will be paid. 


How do they get to the university level?

To advance to a university, a student must successfully pass all three Leaving Exams (see Ugandan school level equivalents). To acquire a government scholarship to study in a university, a student must pass with a perfect score in their S-6 exams. Only a very small percentage of Ugandan students have the opportunity to receive internal assistance by means of a government university scholarship. If they’re in the top one-third of the examinees, they might qualify to enter a university but they would have to pay the tuition themselves. A year of room, board and tuition at a university typically costs around $1,600 U.S. Most university study programs last three years. 

Note: To date we have had three E3 Africa students with perfect scores!


Why does E3 Africa help Ugandan children?



-A sign posted on the office wall of Sister Grace in Uganda

Above is the motto of many of our dedicated kids. Although bright and motivated, these kids wait for a sponsor, often transitioning from childhood to their teens, praying that they will be “adopted” and allowed to return to school.  It is not uncommon to find a 17 year old in the 7th grade level, having waited for a sponsor for a considerable period of time.  These kids covet their education and when they receive the gift of returning to school, they know they are blessed.  How many students in the U.S. have the realization or appreciation of the education that is generally given to them?


Why are education costs sometimes higher with E3 Africa than other organizations? 

E3 Africa’s mission is to educate, enrich and empower the orphaned, impoverished and often forgotten of God’s children in both mind and spirit. With God’s help, E3 Africa strives to positively impact the nation of Uganda by providing their neediest youth with an education that underscores the life-changing effects of a personal relationship with God, peaceful conflict resolution, free market economics, as well as, individual liberty and equality for all, so that they may grow into industrial, cultural and social leaders that champion the tremendous collective value that is achieved when individuals are empowered to lead and encouraged to prosper. 


For our students to accomplish this, they need to receive the best education possible in their country. To see them become the national and world leaders we envision, it is imperative that they attend high standard schools.  To be successful, our students need to be safe, clothed, well fed, supervised and have an environment in which to study.


We do not just send our students to boarding school; rather we oversee their academic accomplishments and well-being through the constant interaction and oversight of our Ugandan Executive Director, Joseph Ambayo. Based upon our excellent reputation with the individual boarding schools, our average secondary boarding rate is $840.  Our Ugandan administrative costs are approximately $180 per student per year. We consider this a small investment with a large return!  Can you imagine being able to clothe, feed, house and educate a child for under $1,000 a year? Can you imagine what effect that $1,000 might have on us globally?


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